‘Bumblebee’ is a delightful new take on an old favorite

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Did somebody say “soft reboot”? Luckily for the aging and much-maligned Transformers movie franchise, their new flick, “Bumblebee”, is actually a rather pleasant little film and could lead to a whole new direction for the moneymaker.

Audiences have turned out by the hundreds of millions of dollars since the first “Transformers” movie back in 2007. But last year’s fifth installment was a bit of a flop for the storied franchise, so “Bumblebee” is an effort to spin off into a new direction. Michael Bay is no longer directing, the story is more subdued and the visual aesthetic is more in-line with the original 1980s cartoon series.

And all of that is just what the franchise needed. “Bumblebee” is a fun flick.

“Bumblebee” is a prequel to all of the other Transformers movies, but picks and chooses what continuity it wants to include or ignore. It’s the story of Bumblebee’s first arrival on Earth, having fled the Transformers’ home planet in the middle of the war in order to find refuge in our neck of the woods.

Bumblebee crash-lands in California in the late 1980s and befriends rebellious teenager Charlie, a would-be mechanic who misses her dead father and could really use a friend. From there, Charlie and the child-like Bumblebee get into the sorts of hijinks an ‘80s teenager and an alien visitor get in to, while also dealing with nosy government agents and some bad guy robots.

The biggest change from previous Transformers movies to “Bumblebee” is the tone. Gone are the constant explosions, manly one-liners and nonstop CGI robot madness. “Bumblebee” is a far simpler movie, focusing almost entirely on the family-friendly robot bonding with the charming teenage girl, set to a nice sampling of classic ‘80s music.

That part of the movie is fun and enjoyable, but the filmmakers don’t do anything new or different with the concept. The human teen struggles to keep her secret alien friend hidden, there’s mischief to be had, the government gets involved; you’ve seen it all before.

When the explosions and alien robot fisticuffs start, that stuff is fun, too. Again, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and the script isn’t the sharpest around. Everything is played simply and effortlessly.

The biggest draw of the film is the franchise itself. Audiences love the Transformers movies, and Bumblebee has always been a fan-favorite character. He’s very child-friendly. So if you’re already a fan, there’s a lot to like about the new spin-off prequel. And the attention paid to the classic cartoon aesthetics is clearly an effort to bring back any lapsed fans to the franchise.

“Bumblebee” is a step in the right direction for the Transformers empire. It’s a pleasant film with a small focus and a really good feel to it, so here’s hoping we get a few more just like it.

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